The Saturn Cycle
Saturn is the part of us that needs structure in our lives, the part that needs us to set healthy limits for ourselves and helps us develop self-discipline and self-respect through long term effort. It encourages us to mature, to be realistic, and to get the job done. When we are true to our Saturn, we are acknowledging and creating our own reality and taking responsibility for what we create. While 'fun' might not be exactly the right word to describe these experiences, we grow wise and strong under their influence. The location of Saturn in our chart shows us where we need to develop discipline in order to gain the rewards in that part of our lives.
Saturn always brings an encounter with reality. It's the planet that sits us down and says, now look, this is the way things are. Saturn teaches through limitations, but Saturn is not about moral judgment or chastisement. It doesn't present limitations for punishment. Saturn is merely 'reality' -- the reality of living in a physical body on a planet and in a society with natural laws. You must work within those laws to get the results you want as Saturn governs natural, karmic cause and effect.
The Saturn Return
Your first Saturn return occurs at about age 29. Add another 29 years and you are 58 and experiencing a second Saturn return. At about 88 or so you'll experience another if you're still alive and kicking. Let's focus on the first Saturn return. Saturn represents the clock keeping time, and its return corresponds with an internal understanding that we aren't going to live forever. We've spent enough time building dreams, messing around, gaining some experience and just plain figuring out who we are as we should be doing in the first Saturn cycle (before the first return) and now we've got to make some decisions and get on with it already. Saturn says to us: you have all these dreams, and they're good dreams, but now which one are you going to take responsibility for and make come true? We may want a thousand things, but we cannot manifest a thousand things in our limited time on this planet and our limited resources as a human. Saturn will now be asking us the question "what are you going to do? It's time to make it real." As Steven Forrest has said, we recognize that we can no longer keep saying to ourselves 'when I grow up,' because we are grown up, or at least getting to that point where it sounds ridiculous to keep saying when. At some point, you need to pick a direction and commit to it to continue on the path of a meaningful life. That point is the first Saturn return.
If we answer this question: "what are you going to do?" in a healthy way, we commit to a path that we can say we truly care about. It doesn't mean we need to predict or solidify our future and never alter our course, but it does mean that we can take our greatest dream and work on translating the details of that dream into reality. We can choose the direction, the path, with intent and self-knowledge. Some of the details from the fantasy world may have to be sacrificed, but if the essence of the dream is still carried forward, then we are on the right track. We have hopefully spent our lives up to this point experimenting and discovering who we are, so the idea is that we have adequately prepared for the important decision making process that happens internally at this time. One can especially hope that we have been in touch enough with our feelings and our true selves that we can answer that question with some experience and wisdom that we gained from that personal journey.